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How to Understand a Thorn

The Urban Alternative / Tony Evans, PhD
The Truth Network Radio
October 13, 2021 8:00 am

How to Understand a Thorn

The Urban Alternative / Tony Evans, PhD

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October 13, 2021 8:00 am

Even if your life is coming up roses, you'll get your share of thorns to go along with them. Join Dr. Tony Evans as he explains that you get them for a reason and talk about the specific ways that we can deal with the discomfort they cause while they're doing their God-appointed work.

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Like a person on an IV drip, drip, drip, he's doing something. Dr. Tony Evans says the thorns God sends our way make us uncomfortable, but they also make us grow.

If you keep pulling out the IV because you don't like the thorn, you'll never see the medication at work. Celebrating 40 years of faithfulness, this is the alternative with Dr. Tony Evans. Author, speaker, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and president of the Urban Alternative. Even if your life is coming up roses, you'll get your share of thorns to go along with them.

But today, Dr. Evans explains you get them for a reason and talks about specific ways we can deal with their discomfort. Let's join him as he begins today's message in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. In verse 7, he introduces us to it, the reality of a thorn. He says, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me.

That's not buffet me. To trouble me, to torment me, to get on my last nerve. The Greek word for thorn referred to a splinter or a needle of some kind that pricked you. We've all had a needle or a thorn or a splinter from wood to get in our finger or toe and irritate us.

It could be used of a hook that catches a fish, piercing its skin, of which it can't shake itself from without tearing and making things worse. A thorn is anything that nags or irritates your life on a continuous basis. A thorn is anything that nags, irritates, exacerbates, or frustrates your life ongoingly. You can't shake it.

It hangs around. Paul says, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, something to irritate me. Now, you can read commentaries galore and you'll have a lot of guesswork as to what Paul's thorn was. For example, Paul talks about how when he was trying to write the churches, he had trouble seeing.

In fact, he had an amanuensis, a recorder who would write for him. And so some will say, well, it was his eye problem. But still others will say, well, he was always being followed by this group called the Judaizers who were undermining his ministry. And so they were an irritation to him.

Maybe it was that. God will do whatever it takes to rid us of our self-sufficiency. I've got a thorn. It hurts. Won't go away.

Had it forever. Don't see any new revelation. How do I work with this thing? What's my response to the thorn? To get the thorn to do what the thorn is designed to do, what do I do?

Well, let's go back to verse 8. He says, concerning this, this thorn, I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. So the first thing he did was pray about the thorn. If you have a thorn, it's getting on your nerves, nagging and irritating you, you pray about it. Paul was praying about it, and God said, no.

So how do you make it in the meantime? Here's the verse, verse 9. And God said to me, the one who gave him the thorn, said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. One of the great verses of the Bible.

Let me translate that for you. God didn't grant his request, but God met his need. Moses prayed upon the mountain. He said, Lord, let me see your face. God said, no. No.

No man can see my face and live. So any Christian who tells you, just pray and God's going to answer it because you pray, yeah, he's going to answer it, and it might be no. God is not yes all the time. Or it might be no, not yet.

Or not today. Or like we tell our children, wait. But while you wait, with this needle jabbing you, you're going to learn a lesson about the greatest word in the Christian vocabulary, grace. There is no greater word than this one. Grace.

Grace is God giving you what you can't give yourself. It is God's goodness overrunning you. I am not, or either I am not right now, going to answer your request about getting rid of the thorn. I'm not going to get you that job, give you that promotion, get you out of debt, give you that mate. No. But it hurts. It's sticking me, irritating me, nagging me, frustrating me.

Okay. I'm not going to give you what you request, but I'm going to give you what you need. You need grace. You need me to come alongside of you and to give you, watch this now, a second wind. You know what a second wind is when you're running, you're running and you're just too tired.

You just can't go any further and the transmission changes gears. And all of a sudden you get strength you didn't have, energy you didn't have, and it was by grace, which meant it had to be given, because grace is a gift, the Bible says. So grace is given.

How much grace? He tells you in verse 9, sufficient grace. God doesn't just give grace. He gives sufficient grace. When does God give sufficient grace? When you pray. He says, I prayed and I got an answer, and the answer wasn't what I asked for, but the answer was what I needed sufficient to what I was going through. Now, let me tell you something. There is no thorn you're enduring that God says, no, I'm not going to get rid of, for which there is not sufficient grace to handle until your change comes.

That cannot happen. Now, I'm not talking about thorns you sticking yourself with. I'm talking about thorns given to you. But we so much want a yes answer that we miss grace. Let me show you the greatest verse on grace in the Bible.

The greatest verse on grace in the Bible. The same book. Turn back a few pages.

I'm going to come back. Hold your finger there. But chapter 9 of 2nd Corinthians, verse 8. Here it is. Memorize this one. Write it down. Put it in your Bible.

Think about it all day. This will get you through anything. Verse 8 of chapter 9. God is able to make all grace abound to you that always, having all sufficiency in everything, you have an abundance for every good deed. Now, he left no stone uncovered in that verse. He says God has got so much grace that it abounds, it heaps up, and it happens always in all sufficiency. And it doesn't matter about the situation in everything so that not only do you get enough grace, you get bonus grace and abundance for every good deed. Listen, when you're trying to deal with a thorn, and God hasn't taken away a thorn, don't go trying to pull it out yourself.

You're going to rip something. You go searching for grace. And where did he get grace?

When he prayed three times. The difference between the defeated Christian and the victorious Christian, when they both have the same thorn, is that one is experiencing grace and the other is not. That's the difference. One is being showered with grace and the other is not. Because the other is so irritated at the thorn, they spend all their time dealing with the thorn, so they never get around to the new revelation. See, there are two ways to deal with a problem.

Let me explain. One way is to get rid of it, which is when we all want to get rid of the problem. Or another way is to have something so superior happen that you forget it. Let's say you have a thorn of depression or discouragement or not married to the best person in the world or whatever it is. You go home today or tomorrow from work.

You open up your mail and somebody gives you a check for a million dollars. You be running through the house telling that husband that you haven't loved for 15 years, I love you. I love you.

Ain't told you that forever, but I love you today. Headache? What headache? I don't have a headache.

What's a headache? Because something new happened. Something unexpected happened that was so awesome, so great, so devastatingly glorious that it made the thorn that hadn't disappeared become insignificant. Some of you have spent your life running from your thorn and you have missed your revelation.

You've missed your illumination. You've missed the new thing God wants to show you and the humbling He wants to give you by making you dependent on Him. Grace. Dr. Evans will come back with one famous person's example of facing up to one of life's thorns when he continues this message from his powerful audio compilation, Tony Evans Top 40. It contains 40 of the most hard-hitting, life-changing lessons he's taught in his ministry's 40-year history.

It includes messages on loving God first, slaying the giants in your life, demonstrating grace when dealing with racial issues, and much more. And right now, we're offering you volumes three and four of this four-volume collection as our gift when you come alongside Tony's ministry and help see us through autumn with a generous contribution. Please visit while the special offer is still available. Make your donation and let us send you all 20 lessons on CD or digital download from Tony Evans Top 40 volumes three and four. And if you missed out on the first two volumes of this collection, you can find out how to get those for your audio library as well. Again, go to or call our resource center at 1-800-800-3222.

I'll repeat our contact information after part two of today's lesson coming up right after this. What do you think has died in your life? Maybe hope has died, relationships have died, maybe your dreams have died.

Guess what? Jesus is still the resurrection. He can take things that are dead and bring them back to life again. November 15th, 16th, and 17th. Travel with Dr. Tony Evans on a life-changing, eye-opening journey with Jesus.

Find theaters, showtimes, and learn more at Billy Graham was speeding. True story. Billy Graham was speeding. He got pulled over. He had to pay the fine.

He went to court to pay the fine just 10 miles over the speed limit. He went in there, and the judge says, well, how do you plead? He says, I'm guilty.

I'm guilty. The judge didn't recognize him at first. Then the judge caught, when he heard the voice, who he was talking to.

Billy Graham. He said, um, you pleading guilty? He says, yeah, I was guilty. He says, Dr. Graham, this is going to cost you $100. He says, I know, I was guilty.

This guy, this couldn't get over. He's sitting in front of Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist in all of human history, and he's going to fine him $100 for going 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. The judge reached in his pocket, pulled out a $100 bill, put it down, and said, fine, paid. And then he looked at Dr. Graham and said, can I take you out for steak dinner? Got his fine paid and got a steak dinner, having broken the law. How did he get all that?

No judge never took me out for no steak dinner. How did Dr. Graham get that? Because of who he was. See, you got to know who you are. You have to understand who you are. Your father loves you.

And yes, there are times where he tickets you, but only because he wants to show you grace, what he can do in spite of the circumstances. When God lets you see grace, what you don't deserve, he says, the thorns that are sticking you, that you fussing about, got an attitude about, now begin to work for you. We've all been to the doctor. We've all been stuck by a needle. That pricks, irritates, frustrate needles. But inside the prick is medicine. The same thing hurting you is helping you. And if you say, don't stick me because the needle hurts. Well, you may be out of the pain, but you're also out of the medication. If God is sticking you and you prayed about it, and that nothing is more irritating than having heard a sermon about trust God, pray to God, you pray to God and he does nothing, you need to know that nothing had medicine in it. That leaving the thorn was like a person on an IV with the needle stuck in drip, drip, drip, drip, he's doing something. But if you keep pulling out the IV because you don't like the thorn, you'll never see the medication at work.

He says, and when you see grace, my grace, not people's grace, my grace, which came when I prayed, my power is perfected in weakness. Thorns make you weak, don't they? Thorns show you how weak you are. You say things you ought not be saying. You look ways you ought not be looking.

You look in the mirror and you don't know who you looking at. When a thorn is getting on your nerves and your weaknesses show up, when stuff is sticking you all the time, God says, I'm going to give you grace. And then in your weakness, what I'm going to do is I'm going to show you my power. Why? Because God loves weak things so that when it becomes strong, there is no question how it got there.

There is no question who the glory goes to, who the credit goes to. So the thorns begin to work for you. That's why God used a little boy like David to kill a Goliath. That's why he told Gideon to make his army smaller because it was through the weak things, things that are broken, stripped, bared down. God loves to use broken things. He breaks the seed to get a plant. He breaks a cloud to get rain and he breaks people to show them his power. He makes the thorn reduce you to a level of absolute dependency on him. Okay, so let's close.

What do you do? I got a thorn. It won't go away.

I've been trying to run from the thorn, pull the thorn out myself and just keep coming back. And so, and I haven't seen any grace. I don't have any power.

Tell me what to do. All right, let's let Paul tell you what to do. Verse 9, most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses.

And then he says at the end of verse 10, for when I am weak, I am strong. Guess what he said I'm going to do? Brag about my thorn.

Did you see that? Boast about my weakness, brag about my thorn. Paul said, I got this thing sticking me. Isn't it great?

This thing is driving me crazy, praise the Lord. Wait a minute, wait a minute, don't look at me. Isn't that what he said? He said, I'm going to boast about my weakness. I'm going to thank God for that insensitive husband.

I'm going to bless God that he hadn't brought me a man or a woman for a maidship. I'm going to brag that I'm frustrated by these circumstances. I'm going to brag and I'm going to praise him.

And the reason that I am going to praise him is because when I am weak, when I can't see my way out, when I don't know which way to go, he going to show up and I'm going to see his strength. You say, well, why haven't I seen it yet? Because you haven't been boasting yet. You've been complaining, grumbling, fussing, cussing. You haven't been praising, blessing, bragging and boasting. You haven't approached the thorn right yet. All you keep saying is it's not fair. Why me? Why now? I'm tired.

I don't believe that God answers prayer. That's not how you handle a thorn. He says you boast in it and chill with it.

I will be content with it. You chill, you stay right where you are and you chill with it. There's this office building that didn't build enough elevators, that didn't make enough elevators for the building. And so people had to wait a long time to wait for the elevators. You've been in a building like that, don't seem to have enough elevators for the size of the building. So they had to decide what to do about this building, what to do about this building because it was too expensive to put another shaft in and put another elevator in.

It would cost too much money, but they couldn't have their people waiting like that being discontent. And they came up with a novel idea. On every floor, they put mirrors. Every single floor, mirrors all around where the elevators were. So folks spent time looking at themselves.

And they discovered if they could focus on something else. Somebody not praying with me. If they could focus on something else, it'll make the wait for the elevator not seem as long.

Some of you are tired of waiting, but you're focusing on the wrong thing. God says, boost about your weakness. Focus on me while you wait for God to bring the elevator to deliver you from the floor he got you stuck on.

You've got to shift your focus while you wait for your change. Dr. Tony Evans, with advice on understanding the purpose behind the pain we sometimes experience. Today's message is part of our four-volume audio compilation, Tony Evans Top 40.

And volumes three and four of this collection are now available. They can be yours with our thanks when you help support Tony's work with your contribution. Get details before time runs out at, where you can also find a huge selection of life-changing resources and sign up for his free weekly email devotional. Again, that's Or call our 24-hour resource center at 1-800-800-3222.

That's 1-800-800-3222. We're all comfortable with the idea of the Lord getting us out of trouble. But tomorrow, Dr. Evans will talk to us about what may be happening when God intentionally lets us get into it. Be sure to join us. The alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by The Urban Alternative and is celebrating 40 years of faithfulness thanks to the generous contributions of listeners like you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-11 15:57:19 / 2023-08-11 16:05:35 / 8

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